Sunday, June 9, 2019

2019 Quest for the Crest 10k Race Report

Like so many things I do, I signed up for the Quest for the Crest Vertical k on a whim. It was late one night and I was browsing ultrasignup and saw that there was one spot left and took it. While the mileage is short it is on trails I do not make it to often enough and with over 3000' of climbing it promised to not be easy and I like to climb so I decided to go for it.
It was hot at the start and as I waited for the shuttle to the start I went back and forth about what wear and what to bring with me. Wear a shirt? Are those storm clouds? Maybe I should carry a jacket? The weather can quickly change up on the Crest trail, better be prepared. By the time the bus came, I had decided on a shirt, no jacket, a few sips of water and a gel. After we got to the start we had a little more waiting before the race started and I noticed it was getting even hotter so I decided to ditch the shirt. There had been ominous looking clouds high on Cielo Knob as we took the bus to the start and if it did rain I would have nothing more than a hat for warmth but with the race only seven miles it couldn't take more than a few hours so I was content to take the gamble and willing to suffer if I must.
The race goes 3100' straight up Woody Ridge trail to the Black Mtn. Crest trail where you get a little bit of flat before plunging straight back down the mountain on some double track. I've only been on Woody Ridge once before and couldn't recall the specifics of the trail but knew it was going to be steep and I would need to be near the front before we got to the more technical sections if I didn't want to be stuck in traffic and since my only goal was to see how fast I could get to the top I knew I needed to be near the front. I was hoping to be able to finish in under two hours but also was not looking to destroy myself on the descent like I had done at Blackrock so I was content to take it easy and see what happened.

I didn't start quite close enough to the start and had to negotiate my way through a large crowd of walkers but we had a short stretch on the gravel road before we reached the trail that allowed everyone to find their place in the order. As we started up Woody Ridge I was about twenty runners back and slowly passed about half of them over the first mile. The trail was really steep but surprisingly not overly technical and I dug deep and tried my hardest to run it all. I managed to keep up my slow running shuffle until about halfway up the trail until my legs and lungs finally said no more and I began hiking like the rest of the runners around me. We were near the front and everyone was all business and not saying anything as the mountain took its toll on all of us. I was expecting some very technical sections that required scrambling where I could perhaps pass a few more people but they never came. There were a few nice rocky outcroppings where I paused to glance at the view but most of the trail was just a steep ribbon of singletrack that passed through several climate zones and plant communities before we finally topped out on the Black Mtn. Crest trail.

The Crest is probably my favorite trail and I don't make it up there enough so after spending an hour dragging my weary shit ass up Woody Ridge I hit crusie control on the Crest and took it easy and took in the views. I had been 10th to the top and that was good enough for me and as such there would be no more racing for me. Over the course of the pounding four mile descent to Bowlen's Creek I would be passed by more than a dozen racers but I was not looking to chase anyone and just let them all cruise by. I still couldn't help but check my watch a few times on the way down as I wondered just how long it would take and right under two hours I heard cheering and saw the creek crossing that marked the finish and next thing I knew the race director was giving me a high five and it was over. A nice spread of fresh fruit and food as well as cold water and gatoraide that we all desperatly needed awaited us.

The race is billed as 'the hardest and most scenic 10k in North America' and that sounds about right. Beauty comes with a price. 

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